Marc Guehi: Were Chelsea right to let him go and what does the future hold for Cobham’s youth system?

After a stellar 2020/21 Championship campaign with Swansea City, Marc Guehi was tipped for a much anticipated return to Chelsea, where he would stake a claim to be a regular in the first team this coming season under Thomas Tuchel.

As with most academy players Chelsea produce, a lot is expected of them looking ahead to the future and when Frank Lampard was in charge of Chelsea from July of 2019 to January of this year, everyone connected with the club believed that the youth would have a big opportunity to make it in the big time at Stamford Bridge.

Guehi on top of his game out on loan from Chelsea, he features in this report for the week of 26-02-21
Guehi on top of his game at Swansea. Credit |Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images

You only have to look at the likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Reece James and perhaps Ruben Loftus-Cheek to an extent, to see that, in the midst of the money Chelsea tend to spend on players from across Europe, there is a path for youth success at the club, despite it being a rather arduous one.

Guehi made a name for himself when playing for the Chelsea U18s, for whom he made 32 appearances in their Premier League and in January 2020, got a loan move to Swansea City. From his arrival until the end of that season, he made 12 league appearances, before returning to Wales on loan for the 2020/21 season.

And this is where people really started to take note of Guehi’s ability. Playing mostly in a back three for Steve Cooper’s side, Guehi made 40 Championship appearances as he helped the Swans through the playoffs, losing to Brentford in the final. In the semi-finals, Guehi gained more much warranted attention when he was given Man of the Match in both legs against Barnsley.

The loss to Brentford in the final was a bitter end to Guehi’s time at Swansea, but his stellar performances meant that he would return to Chelsea for pre-season firmly in the minds of Blues fans who couldn’t wait to see if he had what it took to make it into the first team.

Then came the news on Thursday afternoon that Marc Guehi would be moving to Crystal Palace on a permanent deal, signing a five-year contract at Selhurst Park, with the Eagles – now led by Patrick Vieira – paying around £20m for the 21-year old.

This news has since sent the Chelsea fanbase into a slight meltdown as supporters worry that this could be another Fikayo Tomori situation; a player with seemingly limitless amounts of potential let go at a young age, where they are likely to perform at a high level at their new club, leaving Chelsea looking rather silly.

However, it is worth putting this situation into some context. Guehi was alleged to have asked for regular first team minutes this coming season but it was evidently something that didn’t look possible. Thiago Silva, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger, Kurt Zouma and even James and Cesar Azpilicueta are all capable of playing at centre back, so Guehi will have had to have settled as being the fifth or even sixth choice defender at Chelsea and at 21, who can really blame him for rejecting the proposed 5-year contract extension Chelsea offered him?

From a different perspective, getting over £40m for Tomori and Guehi combined probably isn’t too bad a bit of business considering their lack of first team action with Chelsea.

When push comes to shove, football is a business as well as a sport. Chelsea offered Guehi a contract extension which he refused and the club are now getting a healthy £20m for a player – who made just two senior appearances for Chelsea – from Palace who are likely to give the talented central defender the regular game time he is after.

Guehi’s surprise exit comes not long after reports surfaced that highly rated youth players Tino Livramento, Lewis Bate and Myles Peart-Harris all rejected new long term contracts with the club which of course has brought the youth system at Chelsea into question.

Another outstanding youth talent.
Valentino Livramento. Credit | Getty Images

Despite Frank Lampard coming in in July of 2019 and giving the likes of Mount, James and Abraham chances to make a name for themselves at Stamford Bridge and essentially reinvigorating the attitude towards youth prospects at Chelsea, it looks like the current crop working their way through are once again feeling like they will be pushed aside for the bigger names that Chelsea currently have and want. The Champions League triumph has elevated the club’s expectations of success even more coming into the new season and with winning the Premier League under Tuchel the next target of the club’s, the idea that the current batch of youth talent will be immediately thrust into first team action is looking more unlikely by the day.

In the not too distant future, something must be done in the form of giving the youth players some form of opportunity to play for the first team at Chelsea and for them not to be afraid that they will be cast aside for the more established names in football despite all their hard work from a very young age.

Since Roman Abramovich’s arrival, Cobham has slowly become one of the most talented youth academies in the world and it is such a shame to see players feel that they won’t make it into the big time at Chelsea.

The new rule being enforced by FIFA from 2022 that clubs will only be allow to loan eight players out per season could force Chelsea into giving a select few youth talents a chance in the first team, but this entire situation of youth players rejecting contracts lies deeper within the club and something has to change in that regard, otherwise the belief that some players will have of being given a first team chance at Chelsea will be nothing more than a pipe dream.

Written by Luka Foley (@UOGLuka)

Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)

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